About ten years ago this three year old said to me, “Mummy, when I grow up I’m going to have a shed. Inside my shed I’m going to put a boat, a tractor and a sewing machine.”
What could be better? His Grandy had a boat in his shed, he was obsessed with any kind of tractor (“Hey look a tractor.” “Actually Mummy that one is a grader. You can tell because it has a long metal scraper on the bottom.” “Oh, sorry.”), and I was always using my sewing machine. He loved to sit and watch me sew. He loved that the fly wheel turned one full revolution every time the needle went up and down. He loved that there was a secret compartment for the bobbin. He loved the metal teeth of the feed dogs. My uncle bought him an old sewing machine and we let him pull it apart with a screw driver to see how it worked. He still loves gears and levers and all mechanical moving parts.
This semester he is doing home economics at school. He was really looking forward to it and had discussed the possibility of continuing with it when he selected his optional subjects for next year. He told me that he was making a bag. He discussed his fabric and his colour selections with me. He thought it was OK to have red with green and brown, what did I think about that?
Yesterday I asked how his bag was going and was told that it was finished and probably in his room. Naturally I wanted to see it right away.
“How did you go with it?” I asked, hoping that he would tell me about his sewing, using the machine and how he had worked on it.
“I only got a C-. “, came the reply. This is not what I had meant, but this is what the bag now means to him.
This really annoys me. Why do we take something that is fun and creative and turn it into a possibility for failure? Why is there not value in just letting him make and create? Why does it have to be for assessment?
Here is his bag:
“What is the design?” I asked.
“What do you think it is?” he responded. I thought it might be a World of Warcraft symbol. My Pete thought it could be a paint brush. It could also be a flower bud. He was happy with all of these interpretations – he wanted us to create our own meaning from his work. That is a true artist!
I don’t understand why we slowly squeeze creativity out of our children until they become those adults who proclaim themselves to be unable to create. Surely our creativity as a species is the very reason we currently hold this position in the world. Surely the creative thinkers have been pivotal in our development. Surely we should encourage and nurture the creativity of every child. Allow them to think, imagine and problem solve. Making a bag may not solve our current crisis of fossil fuel consumption, but it will allow one boy to fire up his brain to solve problems before him and feel successful about doing so. It will give one boy the confidence to be a thinker and a creator.
Why did he get a C-? His applique stitch is neat:
His seams are evenly done:
The only ‘flaw’ I can find is a small pinch on the back.
He said that he tried to unpick it, but it stiched like this again. This was the moment for him to learn something important. We don’t learn when things work out just fine. We learn when they are not working and we have to consider a new approach, or a different way to do it. The only reason that I go on to make the next quilt is because while I’m making the current one I think of a different / better / more interesting way to do it next time. That thought process is exciting. It wouldn’t be if I was told that my first one was not good enough.
Is he doing home economics next year? Of course not, why would he?